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Ali: A Life

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,028 ratings  ·  169 reviews
The definitive biography of an American icon, from a New York Times best-selling author with unique access to Ali’s inner circle

He was the wittiest, the prettiest, the strongest, the bravest, and, of course, the greatest (as he told us himself). Muhammad Ali was one of the twentieth century’s most fantastic figures and arguably the most famous man on the planet.

But until
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Tony It's not appropriate for a 13 year old, but it would be fine for a 14 year old. I read Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises when I was 14, the sex in it…moreIt's not appropriate for a 13 year old, but it would be fine for a 14 year old. I read Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises when I was 14, the sex in it helped me understand what I was in for. I wouldn't have been ready for it at 13. Lee's book is fantastic, a must read for everyone.(less)

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4.49  · 
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 ·  1,028 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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The first book I ever reviewed on my blog, nearly three years ago, happened to be Jonathan Eig’s The Birth of the Pill. It was the strength of the writing in that offbeat work of history, as well as rave reviews for this 2017 biography of Muhammad Ali (1942–2016), that led me to pick up a sport-themed book. I’m the furthest thing from a sports fan you could imagine, but I approached this as a book about a cultural icon and read it with a spirit of curiosity about how Eig would shape this life st ...more
Not much needs to be said about the impact Muhammad Ali made on the sport of boxing, civil rights in the United States or the Muslim faith. There have been many books and articles written about the man on all of these topics and more. Now there is one source for inside information on Ali the man, Ali the boxer and Ali the spiritual figure – this outstanding biography written by Jonathan Eig.

Covering Ali’s entire life, from the childhood of Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky to his death in 201
Fred Shaw
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You more than likely have heard of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, if nothing more than that he recently passed away. I was in high school in the 60’s when he won a gold medal in boxing in Rome at the summer Olympics, and when he won the heavyweight title by beating Sonny Liston. He was generally known then as a loud mouth, and many despised him for his “I am the Greatest of all tiiiiiimmmmmeeee” chant and his unorthodox boxing style. He was black and defiant. He refused to go to Viet Nam as a consci ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, 2019-read
“The wittiest, the prettiest, the brashest, the rashest…Sunshine with a snappy left jab.”

An exhaustively detailed account of the life of Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942. The man who became one of the greatest, arguably most charismatic athletes of all time. Jonathan Eig strives to tell Ali’s story alongside the history of the America he inhabited, beginning with the origins of his birth name, taken from the man who owned his great-grandfather, a senat
Michael Fineberg
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is extraordinary for how well it conveys so many different things about 20th Century life in the United States; boxing, coming of age, race, Islam, marriage (and divorce and infidelity), social action, aging, and finally, the power of charisma and bravery. The writing is crisp and engaging, the subject matter(s) is fascinating and the pages just fly by.

I could say more, but read this book and then, let's talk.
Barnabas Piper
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Complex. Fascinating. Scintillating. Charismatic. Despicable. Inspiring. All words that describe Ali. The book itself was good but not great - it bogged down with repetition at times. Over all, the character pulled it along into a captivating story.
Jeffrey Ruby
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't even like boxing and I still could not stop reading this book. I've read all of Jonathan Eig's books, and while his reporting and writing are always top-notch, ALI: A LIFE is his crowning achievement.

Part of that, of course, is due to the fact that Ali was a fascinating, infuriating, dynamic man. His life had unbelievable twists and turns—most of it at his own making—and he was in the middle of so much history during some of America's most turbulent decades.

But Eig doesn't glorify Ali,
Joel Berg
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You can’t understand the U.S. in the 60’s and 70’s, unless you understand the role of Ali. And you can’t understand the role of Ali, unless you read this brilliantly written, immaculately-researched book. The book manages to be both action-packed and full of broad, important themes (race, how athletes get brutalized for money, etc. ) that prompt deep thought. Given the national debate today of the role of athletes in politics, this book is more needed than ever. And it’s is a heck of a lot of fu ...more
Styron Powers
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This Muhammad Ali book is the “GOAT”, of Ali books! This was my eight book on Muhammad Ali. Ali, remains the ONLY athlete, I personally consider my hero. The other seven books, very well discuss his life as a boxer, just as the Will Smith, movie did. Jonathan Eig, painted the picture of the person. From his birth, the early racial prejudices faced. His decision making that made him once hated and later respected and loved. The author painted the good, bad, ugly and greatness of the man. If you a ...more
Marco Etheridge
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Eig's "Ali: A Life" is a detailed and comprehensive biography. The book charts the life of heavy-weight boxer Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most famous athlete of the Twentieth Century. It is an arguable point, but Ali would have had an answer. He would say that he was the greatest of all time. Except that he would say "of allllll times.....!!" "Ali: A Life" was published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has a length of 640 pages.

There are several distinct narratives living between
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: main
Muhammad Ali was, by far, the greatest sports figure of the 20th century. His is a personality that no one will ever be able to "figure out" entirely. He was simultaneously thrilling, charming, disappointing, and malicious. But he was the greatest pugilist of all time(s), and his accomplishments speak for themselves.
This biography by Jonathan Eig is a knockout punch. For sure, no other author has been able to capture Ali in so complete a way as Eig. The depth of the research is very impressive-
Joe O'Donnell
Given that he is easily one of the most famous, most charismatic figures of the twentieth century, it would almost be a perverse achievement to write a dull book about Muhammad Ali. But Jonathan Eig - whose “Ali: A Life” sets out to be the definitive biography of Muhammad Ali, from his upbringing in Kentucky in the 1940s until his death in 2016 - is following in illustrious literary footsteps here. Such literary giants as Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and George Plimpton and such skilled bio ...more
Apr 06, 2019 added it
This book will probably stand as the authoritative biography. It is of the works I've read on the great fighter the most critical. Ali's relationships with the Nation of Islam and women are fully scoped. In neither does he come out unscathed. Eig is clear that that Ali forsaked his friendship with Malcolm X when it was clear that Elijah Muhammad had more power. There is much in here on Ali's womanizing which was rampant and extremely hurtful to his wives and children. Eig uses statistics of punc ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fantastic account of a brilliant life.
Mourisham Jose
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Epic! An absolute knockout!!!!!
Kerry Pickens
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
I started reading this book, and could not put it down. The author captured the enthusiast nature of Ali's personality and rise to fame, as well as the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement.
A fascinating book, my second book by this author. I didn't particularly like the arrogance of Mohammed Ali back in the day but I grew to understand him more and the author convinced me to appreciate Ali's talent and tenacity. The world of boxing is interesting to me and the author definitely increased my interest.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Muhammad Ali was larger than life, and I too was swept up in the collective, national mourning when he passed away two years ago in 2016. Perhaps my earliest *specific* memory regarding sports on television was when Ali lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta in 1996. I remember, probably my father, recall virtual tall-tale stories about his "rope-a-dope" technique and his epically-named bouts including "the Rumble in the Jungle" and "the Thrilla in Manila." Jonathan Eig's biography definitely investig ...more
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: boxing, biography, sports
This was a lackluster biography. It was an easy and pleasant enough read, but not a particularly rewarding one. Its main failing was the absence of any overarching premise about Ali as a person, as a boxer, or regarding his legacy within both his sport and American culture. As such, there’s no real point to the book, leaving it to exist as a simple narrative of Ali’s life for the uninitiated.

Though it adopts a refreshingly more critical “warts-and-all” view of its subject than hagiographer/auth
There are biographies, and then there are books like Ali. Jonathan Eig perfectly captures everything about Muhammad Ali's ascent to becoming the greatest boxer the world had ever seen, as well as the most famous and polarizing figure ever recorded in history. It also captures his decline, his faults, his ambitions, his good heart, his pure soul, and his inability to ever resist temptation, which was perhaps his biggest flaw and the one that contributed most to the arc of his life.

Ali is my role
Susan O
Even coming from a family which doesn't watch boxing, you can't have grown up in the 60s and 70s without knowing the name of Cassius Clay, that he changed it to Muhammad Ali, and that he was hugely popular and controversial. In spite of this, I knew little of his life except some of the big names he fought, and of course the moving event when he lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta. Eig does a brilliant job filling in the moments in Ali's life, the fights, marriages, infidelities, his conversion to ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
First of all the book: well written narrative bio of Ali. I liked that it was even handed for the most part. The author told the bad along with the good. The author was obviously a fan and occasionally let that overtake his analysis, but thankfully this was not too frequent and brief so it did not detract too much. Recommended.

I have mixed emotions about Ali. One of the chapter titles summed it up nicely I thought, "He's human, like us"

(view spoiler)
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Superb piece of research and fine writing style made Ali come alive in a way I had not read before, especially the later years. Such was Eig's access to nearly every living person important in the champ's life that he was in the Scottsdale, Arizona, hospital room when Ali died. I can't wait to see his collaboration with Ken Burns for their film doc on this beloved figure.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
More comprehensive than Remnick’s “When We Were Kings”, this captured the good and bad sides of Ali. There was more of an emphasis on his deterioration (late 70s) because of what is now known about CTE. Inspiring and heartbreaking, Ali’s story encapsulates what is wonderful and what is terrible about America.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am old enough to remember much of what this book covers. If you are older, this book is a great trip down memory lane. If you are younger, it is a great introduction to one of sports greatest figures. Very well written and holds your attention like glue. Highly recommended.
Bob Peru
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
not a hagiography. a warts and all well-written account of a true world icon.
John Devlin
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read other monographs on facets of Ali's life, but I can't imagine someone doing a more comprehensive and fluent work on Ali.

Shakespearean in character and plot, Falstaffian in appetites, Ali was an autodidact of the Mouth. A bard as a linguist and a shameless hype machine that knew no bounds.

And he happened to be the greatest heavyweight ever.

There was darkness in him when he railed against other black fighters as Uncle Toms and philandered on his four wives, sometimes with his four wives, an
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, sports
Excellent, in depth biography of the self-proclaimed greatest boxer. Oddly, Ali reminded me of Tom Cruise.
Scott S.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding bio on a larger-than-life personality who was many different things to many different people. Eig covers Ali's storied life (the boxing career, religion, family, legal / financial problems, etc.) in great detail to offer a fair portrait of the man. Strongly recommended to those interested in sports, celebrities, and/or 20th-century history.
Robert Sparrenberger
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best biographies I’ve ever read. It reads like a Greek tragedy with Ali’s fatal flaw being that he could never say no to anyone. His fans, women, promoters, the president, etc.

The writing is excellent and the fight descriptions make you feel like you are ringside. I want to watch some of the fights now that I’ve read the inside scoop of what was happening and see if it matches what the author described.

So many other people move in and out of his life that I knew the name but not the
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Jonathan Eig is the author of five books, three of them New York Times best sellers. He is a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His most recent book is "Ali: A Life," hailed as an "epic" by Joyce Carol Oates in her New York Times review. His previous books are: "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig;" "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season;" "Get Capone;" and ...more
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“Ali was everything everybody wanted their child to be, except some ignorant-ass white folks, and they don’t count” 2 likes
“[Howard] Cosell spoke in a Brooklyn accent, with vowels that got trapped in the back of his nose and consonants that exploded from his mouth with unexpected force and speed. It was a voice that reminded listeners of a trumpet in the hands of a non-trumpeter.” 1 likes
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